Q: What can you tell me about senior air fares?
A: Just about every major airline has special air-fare discounts for seniors. The discounts take three forms: the automatic 10 percent discount; the flat fee coupon book good for one year, usually for domestic travel; and the senior travel club. No one program is head and shoulders above the rest. Much depends on when, where and how often you travel, your age, whether you travel with younger companions or grandchildren, and whether your departure airport commonly offers deep discounts to everyone. Here are some plans' pluses and minuses:
* American Airlines' coupon book allows travel to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands (two coupons required for Hawaii). Its AActive American Traveler Club allows you to bring along a companion of any age with a coupon for a $70 membership fee. 1-800-237-7981, www.aa.com.
* America West's coupon program allows travel to Mexico and Canada; the coupons can also be used by children ages 2 to 11 traveling with the senior. 1-800-235-9292, www.americawest.com.
* Continental's Freedom Flight Club (1-800-441-1135, www.continental.com) offers a straight discount of 15 or 20 percent, depending on travel days, to anywhere it flies with no blackout dates. Domestic travel membership costs $75 annually; international travel is $125.
* Delta's SkyWise club membership is now closed, but call 1-800-325-3750 to be placed on the waiting list. The program allows seniors, who pay $40 annually, to pay an additional $25 each to enroll up to three companions of any age. Information: www.delta- air.com/SkyWise.
* TWA's coupons can be used to domestic destinations and San Juan, Montego Bay, Santo Domingo and Toronto. A second coupon book for a travel companion of any age is $648 (four coupons cost $548 for seniors). 1-800-221-2000, www1.twa.com/schedules/sr_senior_travel.htm.
* United's Silver Wings Plus programs is offered to anyone 55 or older (you must be 62 to qualify for most other programs). 1-800-720-1765, www.silverwingsplus.com.
* US Airways' Golden Opportunities coupon program (1-800-428-4322, www.usairways.com/travel/fares/sen_trav) extends to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands and allows grandchildren between the ages of 2 and 11 to use the coupons.
Q: My partner and I will be visiting London. Can you recommend inexpensive but decent places to eat, particularly ethnic cuisines?
Hong D. Ta
A: While you can still get a plate of bangers and mash or toad-in-the-hole, you can also belly up to plenty of good and inexpensive ethnic food throughout London. Here are a few restaurants to choose from:
* Wagamama (011-44-171-292-0990) in Soho is a trendy Japanese noodle house with inexpensive food served in large portions.
* Tiger Lil's (011-44-171-720-5433) at Clapham Common offers an interesting spin on wok cooking. Choose from several dozen meats and vegetables and carry them to a chef, who woks them for you.
* Alounak (011-44-171-229-4158) near the Bayswater tube station serves Iranian home cooking; bring your own wine.
* Zamoyski (011-44-171-794-4792) on Fleet Street offers good Polish food, music on weekends and lots of vodka.
* La Campagnola (011-44-171-730-2057) offers budget Italian meals just a few blocks from Victoria Station.
* Silks & Spice (011-44-171-636-2718) near the Oxford Circus tube station offers Thai-Malaysian food at good prices.
* Wong Kei (011-44-171-437-8408) in Chinatown has inexpensive food in a basic atmosphere.
Also, my gourmand friends who live outside London (she is a Brit of Irish descent, he an Indian by way of South Africa, and both are excellent cooks) recommend these good, although not necessarily cheap, ethnic restaurants in London: for Spanish tapas, Don Pepe on Victoria Street or Navarro's on Charlotte Street; for Chinese, Lee Ho Fook on Gerrard Street; for Indian/Bangladeshi, Cafe Naz on Brick Street, Red Fort on Wardour Street, Chutney Mary on King's Road and Diwana on Drummond Street.
Before you go, check out Zagat's London Restaurants (1-800-333-3421, www.zagat. com) for reviews of more than 1,000 restaurants.
Q: My mother and I are planning a no-males getaway. We like to shop and are interested in someplace between Virginia and Illinois, perhaps in Tennessee or Kentucky. Nice scenery and a nice hotel would be pluses.
A: If you want to relax in luxury, try the Inn at Blackberry Farm, just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Knoxville, Tenn. This 1,100-acre "mountain estate" offers fly-fishing, hiking and nearby horseback-riding and golf. It also offers special "Cooking for Friends" weekend programs; the Nov. 14-16 weekend features Jamie Nicoll from Culpeper's Summerfield Farm. Rates start at $395 per night for two, including three meals, afternoon tea and activities. The cooking school is an extra $75 per person per day. Information: 423-984-8166, www.blackberryfarm.com. You can also shop for arts and crafts in nearby communities; call 1-800-525-6834 for a free copy of the Appalachian Arts & Crafts directory.
If you don't want to spend that much, Kentucky's state parks offer above-average accommodations. Louie B. Nunn Lodge (1-800-325-0057) at Barren River State Park in Glasgow has 51 rooms with rates starting at $52 per night, double occupancy. Lake Cumberland State Resort Park (1-800-325-1709) in Jamestown offers two lodges, cottages and various amenities, including an indoor pool; rates start at $52 per night for two.
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).